Actual Play! and a Review: Lovecraftesque
Lovecraftesque is a GMless storytelling game based on H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos. There’s a very successful Kickstarter going on right now, where you can download a bare bones version to kick the tires before opening your wallet for yet another Kickstarter.
It’s worth your money, though. Fans of Lovecraft (like myself) have to wade through a nasty miasma of racism and ableism in his stories, and interesting women are non-existent. The creators of Lovecraftesque, Becky Annison and Joshua Fox, have made a game based in the Lovecraft mythos where you can either address those elements or have a game without them, allowing gamers to explore how the horror beyond space and time works in a world that’s not morbidly obsessed with miscegenation and people not descended from the Mayflower.
I got a group of wonderful women together to give Lovecraftesque a try. The review copy Becky sent me included a teaching guide for people who haven’t played the game before, and it was really helpful. There are cue cards and tables as well, in case you need some inspiration. The game can work with only two players, but our group of four felt like a nice mix. There are special cards that we ended up not using, but I think they could be a lot of fun for a group that’s played once or twice before and wants to shake up their narrative a little. We played for about 3 and a half hours with a tiny break, and wove together a pretty compelling story.
To play, you will need the following:
- The rules
- Printed copies of the cue cards
- A printed copy of the Inspiration Tables
- A printed copy of the special cards
- Index cards. 12 should be the upper limit on what you need.
- Scrap paper and pencils.
How to play:
GMless games need at least one person to have read the rules and act as facilitator. In Lovecraftesque, everyone contributes equally to the story. The roles include the Narrator, the Witness, and the Watchers, and these roles rotate to all the players. The game progresses through three acts, with the first two serving to build tension and the last one revealing the real terror behind it all. There’s also an epilogue which tells what happened to everyone involved and shows how you can never really beat a cosmic horror.
As this is a story game, you get to chose the time period, setting, and background of the Witness. This is a place where Becky and Josh encourage people to move beyond the typical white male protagonist of Lovecraft’s stories. However, once you begin playing, you aren’t supposed to discuss what’s happening with the other players outside of the game. No one knows exactly what horror is driving all the icky things the Witness encounters, and after each scene the players write down their theory on what’s really going on. At the end, one player volunteers their current theory to be the basis of the last scene. Although everyone is using the same clues put into each scene to come up with an explanation, these will probably vary wildly from person to person.
Overall, this was a really fun game that I’d definitely play again. I’d like to thank Andrea G, Shoe Skogen, and Misha B for playing with me, and may their sandals remain forever free of squidgy seaweed! You can watch our game below.